Friday, December 12, 2014

Reflections from a 4H Leader

When I was asked a year ago if I would consider running a 4-H club, my first instinct was to run as fast as I could in the opposite direction.

There are a million reasons that I shouldn't be the person to take on a job like that. Like the fact that I'm a ridiculously busy homeschooling, farming mom with plenty of animal and kid responsibilities to take up every spare second of my time. Or the fact that we are relatively new to the 4-H world and I wouldn't have any idea what I was actually supposed to do. And then there's that part about how I really just don't enjoy being around kids very much.*

But I knew I was going to have to suck it up. As much as I wanted to be a dance mom, or a gymnastics mom, or even a karate mom for heaven's sake, that wasn't for me to decide. I've got one girl obsessed with raising poultry and another who is just smitten with horses. So 4-H Mom is my title. And I'm not one to do anything half way, so taking on the role of Organizational Leader just kind of made sense. And in every possible way, I'm so glad I accepted the offer.

The woman I run the club with – who I barely knew and was mildly afraid of until we were thrust into this job together – has become one of my dearest friends here in The Tiny Little Town. Working on 4-H projects with her has become time I really look forward to – something of a social outlet for my otherwise very anti-social life.

And the kids, the ones I wasn't sure I actually wanted to be around? They are amazing. I truly love my time spent with them. A few months of getting to know them, learning their personalities and quirks and strengths, seeing them grow and accomplish new things, watching as they make friends and form relationships that really benefit them – I couldn't ask for a greater gift! There is the added bonus that I know personally all of the kids my own girls are spending time with, and also the bonus of getting to know their parents. Apparently, 4-H isn't just an opportunity for kids to socialize – it's for parents, too.

This year, I volunteered to host the club Christmas party at our house. Twenty kids, all their parents, a dessert potluck, hot cocoa, a mug exchange, and an awards ceremony. Everything about it seemed a bit like insanity on my part, but what fun we had! Being around all those kids really energizes me. I've learned to relax a little when little boys hold an impromptu wrestling match in very not-kid-proof living room, or when a table full of youngun's are having hot cocoa in my kitchen without lids on their cups. Messes clean up. Memories last, though. I honestly enjoyed myself all the way through.

My girls hugged me and thanked me over and over for letting us have the party here and helped with every aspect of it so willingly, from cleaning the house and setting up beforehand, to vacuuming the millions of crumbs on the kitchen floor afterward.

In every way, I'm glad I took this on – not just the party, but all of it. 4-H doesn't just grow kids and animals, it grows grown-ups, too!
*It sounds terrible to say I don't enjoy being around kids very much, but it's true. I adore my own children very much, but other people's kids tend to stress me out.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of Year

“Christmas” isn't just a holiday at our house. It's a season, one that lasts a month, and it stands for so much more than just the one day we celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

I love this time of year. The garden is put to bed and no work needs to be done. The produce is put up in the freezer and cellar, what canning I had to do this year – there wasn't much – is finished. The goats and cow have been dried up in preparation for next year's babies. Horse events are over, 4-H is down to just monthly meetings and a few extra activities instead of being a daily project. The house was deep cleaned and decluttered in the fall, leaving only basic housework to keep up with. In December we decrease the schoolwork load to only math and English, doing about three hours of school each day instead of the usual six.

This is the time of year for spending with family and friends, for crafting beautiful things as gifts, for ourselves, for our home. It's the time of year for baking and trying new recipes. There's time for playing games, singing Christmas carols, or reading aloud to one another by the fire. We pick up forgotten knitting projects, we play with play-dough and paint and just sit and chat. We have time to go for walks, to just sit and play with the animals. We have time to just relax, and it's very welcome.

It's been a hard couple of years up here on our little mountain. One mama trying to handle all that comes with homemaking and homeschooling, plus keeping a small farm running without much help at all, is bound to start falling apart sometime. But things are looking up. The Daddy moved home in September, and we've all settled into having a man in the house again. We've lost some very special people in our lives this year, but my heart is healing as I'm reminded how important The Little Things really are, and I'm focusing on being grateful for each memory and for creating new ones. Loneliness has been tempered by the making of new friends and getting involved in the wonderful community we live in. I'm looking to the holiday season with hope and joy this year, I'm not overwhelmed and discouraged.

It's going to be a good Christmas season.